’An important gesture’: InConcert Sierra raises 13K, sponsorships for musicians during pandemic
’An important gesture’
Everyone has been impacted in some manner by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classical musicians, particularly, have been hit hard because live performances of both large orchestral and smaller chamber concerts have not been allowed for the past nine-plus months, leaving many unemployed or with diminished incomes. InConcert Sierra was very concerned about its orchestra musicians when the county was locked down last March, resulting in the cancellation of InConcert’s May 2020 Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra concerts. Suddenly those musicians were without expected income. To soften the financial blow for its close-knit group of musicians, InConcert took action twice during these past months by offering monetary payments to them.
InConcert, a non-profit organization in Grass Valley, presents internationally famous classical music artists, as well as local orchestral professionals (for its thrice-a-year orchestra performances), many of whom have performed with the organization for years. When COVID suddenly canceled everything in March, the board of directors of InConcert discussed what they could do to help their now income-deficient orchestra members.
In April, the board voted to authorize $6,750 from its budget toward a courtesy payment to each of the 27 musicians who had been contracted to perform in the canceled May concerts. An email was sent to these musicians, informing them that they would be receiving a check. However, because some musicians have other sources of income and might not need the money, they were given the option to decline the offered payment and then their portion would be returned to the general “money pot” to increase the total to be divided among those musicians who accepted the payment.
A number of musicians thanked InConcert but declined a check, requesting their share be given to those who needed it more. This generosity resulted in 12 musicians each welcoming a larger amount. The organization received numerous appreciative and laudatory communications from both the decliners and the check recipients. One musician wrote that InConcert was a class act, and said, “Who does something like this? Not a single one of my many canceled jobs has written an email offering some sort of recompense. It really did my heart good.”
Although there are currently some musician and/or artist relief programs, most do not include classical music artists. So, when the restrictions against indoor concerts continued through fall and winter, InConcert felt it was time, once again, to give a gift to its family of musicians.
In normal years, InConcert’s season-opening concert in September features the orchestra and, as a fundraiser, patrons are asked to sponsor each musician’s chair. Because there was not a live concert performed in September 2020, the board decided to ask patrons to assist with a holiday payment to all 60 musicians who had performed in the September, November, and December virtual concerts that InConcert has been providing for the enjoyment of viewers (these can be viewed on InConcert Sierra’s YouTube Channel or website at http://www.inconcertsierra.org).
InConcert’s board members contacted donors and concert attendees to ask if they would be willing to sponsor one or more musicians. The affirmative responses were overwhelming, and every one of the 60 musicians was sponsored! Community members understood and were very sympathetic to the hardships that the musicians — and arts organizations in general — have been experiencing. In fact, some individuals generously wrote checks for an amount greater than the sponsorship sum, allowing a larger “pot” for payments. This resulted in a total raised of more than $13,000! Many of the sponsors were so pleased to be asked to help these musicians who have brought so much musical joy to Nevada County. One sponsor, Susan Duey, directed these comments to the musicians: “With much gratitude for the gift of your skill and beautiful music.”
As was done in May, orchestra members were given the opportunity to opt out and have their share put back into the pot, thereby increasing the amount paid to each of the remaining musicians. This time, 32 musicians generously declined, allowing the remaining 28 to split the proceeds, which were warmly received.
InConcert received some very moving comments from orchestra musicians, which made this fundraising endeavor even more meaningful. One individual who declined a payment wrote, “This is such an extraordinarily thoughtful gesture! And yet so typical of this remarkable organization, so I would like to donate this offer back to colleagues with greater need.” Another, who accepted the payment, emailed, “I am feeling so overwhelmed and truly grateful for your generosity! This means so much in so many ways. I can’t wait until we get to show you our appreciation, in person, through music.”
A response that clearly illuminates the importance of the monetary gift was from a musician who said, “This generous and thoughtful outreach of support is enormously appreciated! It comes at a time when 99% of my music income has been erased by the pandemic for nearly 10 months now, and will likely be absent well through the 2021 orchestra season, if not beyond.”
Complimentary payments such as these are uncommon. Which is why board President Monroe Lovelady affirmed, “InConcert felt this would be an important gesture to our musicians. We are honored that our community agreed. We all want our musicians to be able to return to our local stages when we are back to live concerts.”
Fortunately, community members concurred and were willing to step up, in a time of need, to help underwrite funds for these musicians. It is collaboration, financial support and caring, by individuals and organizations such as these musician sponsors and InConcert Sierra, that make Nevada County so special.
Hindi Greenberg has lived in Nevada County for 20 years, and is a board member of InConcert Sierra.
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